From the Ground-Up: Human Resources 101 for Startups

In this guest post, Erin Osterhaus, Managing Editor at The New Talent Times reveals how one start-up built a flourishing HR department from scratch.

For many startups, human resources tends to be the last item on the agenda when getting their business off the groundin the beginning most tend to focus their limited resources on generating revenue and drawing attention to their brand. But, as the company starts to grow, managing employees becomes more complex.

So how can your company navigate the tough transition from bootstrapped startup to flourishing business? Erin Osterhaus, an HR Analyst at Software Advicea website that reviews HR software—decided to find out. She sat down with Kim Rohrer, Disqus’ Head of People Operations, to learn how to develop an HR department once your startup begins to gain steam, and employees.

Disqus, a company that provides blog comment hosting services for websites and online communities, went through its own startup growing pains. When Rohrer started out at Disqus in 2010, the company had no HR department to speak of. However, Rohrer successfully  spearheaded the development of the company’s HR division while maintaining the same momentum and efficiency that allowed Disqus to grow in the first place. She offered the following tips for other startups going through similar growing pains:

Define Departmental Responsibilities

At Disqus, as at many startups, the company had a “flat” culture in the beginning. According to Rohrer, this meant that there were no managers or directors. As the company grew, this “flatness” became a problem. The CEO couldn’t oversee the activities of all the employees as he had been doing. Instead, he and Rohrer worked closely to create some a management structure. They defined roles for leaders for their Product Development, Engineering, and Advertising teams.

The added hierarchy improved communication between departments and helped Disqus function at a higher level. It also helped ensure that all employees’ concerns and questions could be addressed by HR if needed, and has helped avoid HR issues and complications. As such, Rohrer suggests appointing leaders of teams early on. Having some form of a management structure will assist your startup as it grows—the CEO can’t manage everyone once you start growing beyond a core team.

Build a Killer HR Team

You can’t create a killer team without people. And who finds people? Recruiters. So, from the start, Rohrer suggests making an effort to hire a designated recruiter to find the employees your company will need to succeed.

Additionally, Rohrer suggests filling out your HR team with an office manager. As Rohrer says, when she started at Disqus, she was a sort of Jill-of-all-trades.” She organized office supplies, company events, IT, and sometimes even took on facilities maintenance. This sort of disjointed job functionality prevented her from focusing on more strategic HR functions, like developing Disqus’ company culture and improving employees’ job satisfaction. Once she hired an office manager—using her recently hired recruiter—she could focus on making Disqus a great place to work.

Develop a Support Group

The rapid growth of startups can be a challenging time for HR teams. Rohrer’s final tip is to ensure you have a support community to learn from during this important transition phase.

In fact, Rohrer believes this so strongly, that she helped create Organization Organizers, a network of business operations professionals that hosts learning and development events, and serves as a forum for its members to share their HR experiences.  “No one should have to reinvent the wheel,” Rohrer says. “If we all learn and grow together, the entire industry does better.”

The full interview can be found on Software Advice’s Talent Management blog, The New Talent Times.

 

 

 

 

 

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